5 Questions for Andrew Harding
Periodically, I-Conn publishes answers by famous scholars to the following questions. Not being a famous scholar, I will not be asked to do this, but since I found the answers given intriguing, I thought I would have a go at my own answers just for fun and some self-awareness.
1. 1. Tell us about something you are working on right now.
Too many things but here are the really interesting ones. I am completing editing a book on constitutional courts in Asia for CUP with Albert Chen, and have written a chapter on Myanmar’s Constitutional Tribunal for that book. I am also writing a chapter for the OUP Handbook on Asian constitutionalism (edited by David Law and Chang Wen-chen) on subnational constitutionalism in Asia. This latter is very challenging in terms of what should be covered and what approach should be taken. My starting point is that as with other regions Asia has gone in for decentralisation in quite a big way. The intriguing part to figure out is how this sits with the continued validity of the Asian developmental state with its contrary, centralising influence. Longer term I will be working with Bui Ngoc Son on a fascinating project on village contracts in Vietnam (also an aspect of sub-national constitutionalism), and with Nyi Nyi Kyaw on the law and politics of transition in Myanmar; and even longer-term I am thinking about how I could write a book on law and development in South East Asia, which is a little-investigated subject.
2. How and when do you write? Do you have a routine or do you write whenever and wherever you find the time?I tend to function best later in the day, and usually reserve the earlier part for more routine tasks. It seems to work best when you have a good chunk of time to get really into it without distraction, but not so long that you become unfocused. Progress usually depends on a combination of enthusiasm and deadline-enforcement. The other thing I do find is that I need a ‘hook’ to get me motivated. That means either inspiration from reading or discussion, irritation with something I disagree with, or an intriguing question or image that tugs at me.
3. Whose scholarship jumps to the top of your reading list when she or he publishes something new?I try to read a new article every day. I read widely but not in a very focused way. I always look for new work on Asian constitutionalism, and will certainly watch for work by the likes of Tom Ginsburg, Albert Chen, and many younger scholars in Asia who come with new ideas and interests. I am very eclectic in the disciplinary sense. Like Kim Lane Scheppelle, I like to keep up with news about constitutional debates, crises and so on. Sometimes I will read an important case instead of an article.
4. Is there an article or book that influenced you as a student and that continues today to be an important reference point for you?When I was a student I was studying classics, and oddly law did not feature in that (it should have involved Roman law at least, which was studied by law students but not classicists). So I take your question as relating to my formative stages as a scholar. I would single out Dan Lev, whose work on Indonesia is rich, powerful, mind-changing, and by no means of interest only to those studying Indonesia. I have never been one for the ‘greats’ of jurisprudence, but amongst legal theorists I found William Twining the most thoughtful and meaningful. Clifford Geert’s work was also inspiring.
5. What are some of the big questions ripe for inquiry in your area of research interest?
Here I am totally with Kim Scheppelle in her recent I-Conn interview. We need to bring legal and other kinds of scholarship together in a synthesis to understand in what ways constitutions in terms of political process, institutions, and rights-protection have or can have traction in society – but I would add to this that looking at these issues across Asia is essential for any kind of viable conceptual analysis. I am suspicious of the viability of big answers to big questions (they are usually wrong or only partially and unhelpfully right). Where we will find some answers to Kim’s questions is at the interface between what I have called ‘global doctrine’ and ‘local knowledge’.